Dog adds texture to artist’s work

Over the years I’ve written about the connection between artists, their work and dogs. The stories ranged from examples of canine art at the Dayton Art Institute to instructions on projects to do with our four-legged family members. To date, I have yet to write about an artist and her dog.

Meet Julie Riley.

This month marks four years since Julie has been a full-time artist on Front Street in downtown Dayton. Since 1965, visitors have been coming to Front Street to watch nearly 150 woodworkers, painters, sculptors, textile artists and glass-blowers at work.

Julie works mostly with oils, acrylics and inks but loves to experiment with different mediums and styles. Her paintings are colorful and full of texture. Julie’s favorite subjects are birds. She said her mom loved birds and instilled that love in her.

In her early 50s, Julie decided to quit her job to take care of her aging, dementia-suffering parents. She thought a dog would be a good companion for her as well as her parents. Her only two requirements were minimal shedding and that it be small.

A friend of Julie’s received a Havanese, the national dog of Cuba, from a breeder friend. Upon meeting his furry family member, Julie felt she had found the perfect dog for her.

This breed was almost driven to extinction. In 1959, when Fidel Castro took over Cuba, he convinced many Cubans that the breed was a dishonorable symbol of the ruling class. Many Cubans literally threw the dogs on the street.

During the 1980 Mariel boatlift, approximately 125,000 Cubans sought refuge in the U.S. About 10 of the Havanese dogs were also brought to this country and were carefully bred.

The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1996. The AKC describes this toy group breed as caring and friendly and adaptable to many different lifestyles.

When Julie met with her friend’s dog’s breeder, one pup followed her around, barking and basically doing anything to get her attention. So, of course, when the puppies were ready to be adopted. Julie took her home. Julie’s sister, Michele, thought the pup looked like a “Lucy.” Julie agreed.

According to the AKC, these dogs are intelligent, outgoing and funny. Julie describes the 8-year-old pooch similarly. Lucy is a jovial, playful, intelligent canine who loves to cuddle, take walks, go for car rides and be chased. Her best dog friend is Julie’s cousin’s Bichon, Sassy. They love to play with each other.

Lucy is a regular fixture at Julie’s studio and gallery. It took about two years for the dog to adjust to her surroundings. She loved meeting people and playing with dogs of other artists, but she barked a lot. As she learned to bark less, Julie took her more and more to Front Street. Lucy, like many of her breed, adapted to the studio and gallery environment.

Today, the pooch greets everyone with a friendly bark or two while begging for pets, hugs and treats. She loves people and is good at showing guests around the studio. Some stop at Front Street regularly just to give her a treat.

Julie said her favorite activity with Lucy at Front Street is cuddling on a red-and-white polka dot sofa. The little dog naps next to her favorite person and Julie paints next to her favorite dog.


To learn more about Front Street check out

Karin Spicer is a member of The Dog Writers Association of America. She lives with her family and two furry pets who inspire her. She can be reached at

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